Olympic champion Mat Belcher has big plans for sailing gear brand Zhik

Zhik was started in 2003 by the founder of Dolby, Brian Connolly, who had a vision to make high-performance wetsuits for elite athletes after taking up sailing himself.

Mr Connolly began creating clothing and equipment, improving materials and fabrics used for harnesses, shoes and wetsuits. The major point of difference is the hydrophobic polypropylene fibre used in the suits, which can keep skin dry in even the wettest of conditions.

Today, Zhik has 50 per cent of the Olympic sailing market and sponsors more than 100 elite athletes from 23 nations. The company outfits the best sailors in the world, including America’s Cup winners, Sail GP and gold medal teams, and was an official supplier to the Australian Olympic team in Tokyo.

Nightingale chairman Lindsay Phillips said Zhik’s pursuit of innovation was what made it attractive.

“By corner stoning this most recent raise, we reaffirm our belief in Zhik’s vision and our unwavering commitment to fostering the growth of pioneering Australian technology companies,” he said.

The new money – $2 million – values the company at just under $30 million. Mr Belcher said the business reported top-line growth of 45 per cent for fiscal year 2022, and 30 per cent growth in fiscal year 2021, figures largely driven by a lack of supply chain friction despite COVID-19 restrictions.

He wants to double revenue over the next three years, and said the money raised will largely be used for strategic acquisitions for various sailing activities such as dinghy sailing and foil racing, improving loyalty programs and customer experience online.

“The crowdfunding was quite critical for us to continue that momentum. We obviously need working capital investment. We need to upgrade our digital capabilities – websites, loyalty programs – to help communicate to a much wider audience. We’re also looking for targeted acquisitions over the next couple of years to help us accelerate our growth.”

The latest crowdfunding effort was open to investors in Australia and New Zealand, who were given the option to spend anywhere between $1000 and $250,000 dollars on a stake in the business. They were offered discounted products and limited edition shareholder merchandise in exchange.

Mr Belcher is already planning for a second campaign in 18 months.

“We’re actually a very small, small fish in quite a large pond … we certainly have a very strong presence globally in SailGP (the international competition that features F50-foiling catamarans) and the Olympic environment, but when you go down to the local yacht club … a lot of boating and cruises don’t actually still know us.

“We feel that we’ve got so much opportunity in that space.”

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